By Chris Lang
EcoPlanet Bamboo, according to the company’s website, “is leading the industrialization of bamboo as a viable and environmentally attractive alternative fiber.” The company claims to have established bamboo plantations in Nicaragua, South Africa, and Ghana.
In 2017, REDD-Monitor was told that EcoPlanet Bamboo’s operations in Ghana had been closed down because EcoPlanet Bamboo “owed too many people money”.
In November 2017, the Forest Stewardship Council certificate of EcoPlanet Bamboo’s plantations in Nicaragua lapsed.
Here’s a screenshot from EcoPlanet Bamboo’s website (taken today):
Under the FSC logo is the license code “FSC-C113478”. That’s the license code for the company’s Nicaragua plantations – which expired on 13 November 2017. I’m reasonably sure that it’s against FSC trademark rules to display a non-valid FSC license code – especially more than eight months after the certificate has lapsed.
EcoPlanet Bamboo also states that its Central American plantations (i.e. its Nicaragua plantations) “have received gold level Climate, Community, Biodiversity Alliance CCBA certification”. But EcoPlanet Bamboo’s CCBA certification expired on 23 November 2017.
Creating jobs, or not paying wages?
In March 2018, Camille Rebelo, co-founder of EcoPlanet Bamboo, told the magazine Ethical Corporation that the company was creating permanent jobs for communities. “These are multi-generational projects … In Nicaragua that [means it is creating jobs for] 90-120 years if managed correctly,” she said.
But also in March 2018, the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa reported that about 86 workers were protesting in the streets of El Rama in Nicaragua, demanding that EcoPlanet Bamboo pay their salaries.
One worker told La Prensa that payments since April 2017 were overdue.
Rebelo told Ethical Corporation that “bamboo needs a lot of management in the first five to six years so employment is high on the field level … then onto manufacturing”. Ethical Corporation reported that, “EcoPlanet Bamboo is also piloting a closed-loop biorefinery to make moulded pulp for disposable containers to replace plastics and styrofoam.”
In April 2018, EcoPlanet Bamboo announced that a company called BAP Industries in Guatemala had signed a ten year agreement to buy the bamboo from EcoPlanet Bamboo’s Nicaragua plantations. BAP Industries, according to the press release, plans to invest US$60 million in building a bio-refinery and paper mill in Nicaragua.
But there is no sign of BAP Industries on the internet. Even the company’s website has disappeared.
EcoPlanet Bamboo “suffered a fraud”
Over a period of several months, a Facebook page called “Trabajadores Ecoplanet” posted a series of links to reports in the Nicaraguan media about EcoPlanet Bamboo.
Trabajadores Ecoplanet was critical of Troy Wiseman, EcoPlanet Bamboo’s CEO, and his company. The Facebook page demanded that EcoPlanet Bamboo pay the workers’ wages.
Trabajadores Ecoplanet’s Facebook page has now disappeared. The last post was an apology to Troy Wiseman. It is still available in Spanish and English on EcoPlanet Bamboo’s Facebook page (and it’s interesting to note that EcoPlanet Bamboo posted this just two minutes after it was posted on Trabajadores Ecoplanet’s Facebook page):
The World Bamboo Congress took place in Mexico from 14-18 August 2018. Troy Wiseman was there, as a keynote speaker. EcoPlanet Bamboo was a Gold Sponsor of the World Bamboo Congress. The apology appeared on the first day of the Congress.
The apology states that EcoPlanet Bamboo “suffered a fraud that led to the closing of operations” in Nicaragua. I was intrigued by this, so I wrote to Troy Wiseman to ask what happened. REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting his response in full when it arrives.
PUBLIC APOLOGIES FOR MR. TROY WISEMAN & ECOPLANET BAMBOOThe Rama, August 14, 2018
Dear Mr. Troy Wiseman, as the former employee of the company ECOPLANET BAMBOO NICARAGUA, S.A., I want in this act to allow me to make this public and sincere apology. After having spoken with you and with your legal representation, I have realized that I have been totally misinformed and that I did not have the correct information regarding the funds that you personally and without having legal obligation, has facilitated since the month of May of this year 2018, so that workers are paid the outstanding obligations that our employer could not pay ECOPLANET BAMBOO NICARAGUA, SA
I have been informed by the company of the audit report, where it is indicated that the company suffered a fraud that led to the closing of operations and now I understand that you and ECOPLANET BAMBOO have made the best efforts to mitigate the damage to the workers, we went wrong informed, which motivated the attacks against his person and against EcoPlanet Bamboo in social networks, which in this act I express my sincere apology, and I promise not to disclose by any written means, electronic information against You and ECOPLANET BAMBOO, as well as the final closure of an account in social networks where he is the Administrator.
I take this opportunity to thank you for the funds you have provided to pay our work liabilities, and personally I am satisfied, since you or any of the other companies of the Ecoplanet Bamboo Group have no personal obligation to assume these payments generated for another employer, but I appreciate your support and all the positive things that your endeavors have generated for Nicaragua, the Rama and the families over the last ten years.
I say goodbye hoping that we can soon have your presence in Nicaragua again, we express our support and encouragement to return to work with ECOPLANET BAMBOO in new operations and ventures in Nicaragua.
With my esteem,